John Szabo’s Vintages Preview for August 31, 2013
90+ Wines and TIFF Champagne
It’s still the time of year for patio/lakeside/poolside lounging, so I’ll cut right to the cork pulling. The August 31st VINTAGES release presents the annual “90 point+” theme, intended to ease the end of summer blues. At certain prices, say above $30, one would expect no less; below that and things get even more interesting. Ten of the new releases hit the mark for me, including three above $30 that are well into the “+” zone, and seven fine values under $27. Any of these wines will add an extra few degrees and minutes of sunlight to your day.
Burgundy delivers three excellent wines – a region familiar to lovers of subtlety, elegance and the taste of rocks (even if not always the source of top values). Maison Champy’s 2010 Pernand-Vergelesses En Caradeux 1er Cru ($49.95), is one of the best wines I’ve had from the house in recent memory. En Caradeux is a fine, cool premier cru, on a perfectly east-facing slope opposite Corton Charlemagne, delivering here in 2010 a wonderfully nutty, leesy, generously oak influenced white Burgundy, still a couple of years away from prime drinking, with considerable concentration and grippy texture, not to mention terrific length, all held together by scintillating acids. This is tidy stuff.
Biodynamic producer Jean-Marc Brocard’s 2011 Chablis Sainte Claire Vieilles Vignes ($24.95) is a terrific village Chablis issued from a south-facing parcel of 60 year-old vines on classic Kimmeridgian limestone. The result is a textbook, lean, crunchy green fruit and chalky-mineral example, with a touch of the cheese rind flavour I associate with classic Chablis (organically farmed, wild fermented, full malolactic). Length and depth are very good to excellent, plus there’s evident concentration and complexity in spades.
Fans of classic red Burgundy should consider the 2010 Louis Jadot Beaune Boucherottes 1er Cru ($52.95). 2010 was made by legendary winemaker Jacques Lardière, who produced 42 vintages for Maison Jadot from 1970 to 2012. It also marks the first vintage for Frédéric Barnier, who is taking over from Lardière as Technical Director of Jadot. I’ve had the pleasure of tasting several times with Lardière over the years, most recently this past July as he passed through Toronto on a final tour at the helm of Maison Jadot.
Lardière is unquestionably one of the most unforgettable characters in the world of wine, whose mystical language has both baffled and enthralled several generations of wine professionals. He has often been heard speaking about the “vibrations of the mother rock” and the “demineralization of soil”, “energy spirals” and the “animation of terroir”. And while a precise understanding of his philosophy remains somewhat elusive to me (and many others), what is clear is that the top wines from Louis Jadot are among the best and most consistent in Burgundy. They’re never the most flashy or obvious, but rather suffused with subtlety, originality and, well, vibrational energy.
As he steps down, what Lardière hopes for is that “people will preserve typicité”, and that “they will stop certain techniques that impoverish the many terroir expressions of Burgundy”. “When you name places – and it’s a nominative process –” says Lardière, “you must produce something different from them [the many climats/crus of Burgundy]”. And in characteristic humility, he also hopes that “in future that people won’t say we’re drinking a “Jacques Lardière” wine, but rather a XXXX [fill in the vineyard name].”
Boucherottes is one of my favorite 1er Crus from Beaune, and the 2010 expression from Jadot highlights all of its elegance, class and refinement. It’s still of course quite tightly wound aromatically, and the palate is yet firm and dusty, but there’s no mistaking the energy and verve, delicacy yet intensity, on display. Revisit this wine lovers’ vintage sometime after 2016, and be sure to say you’re enjoying a Boucherottes, and not a pinot noir made by Jacques Lardière.
Rounding out the French selections, the 2010 Zind Humbrecht Turckheim Riesling ($26.95) and 2011 Pierre Amadieu Romane Machotte Gigondas ($24.95) are both classic expressions of their grapes and regions. Zind Humbrecht’s Turckheim Riesling is a rare sub-$30 wine from this premium and storied house, which sacrifices little of the quality of the more expensive bottlings. It’s tight, essentially dry and very minerally, honest and pure, with terrific intensity and stoniness for the money. Amadieu’s Gigondas is a rich, balanced, fresh and lively southern Rhône red from a “lighter” vintage, well measured, with all elements in adequate or even substantial doses.
A pair of smart Californian chardonnays is worth a look this week, albeit from different ends of the price and style spectrum. Those leaning towards more refined expressions will be most impressed by the 2011 Kistler Les Noisetiers Chardonnay ($76.95). Somewhat ironically, considering the cool, wet, troublesome vintage conditions in general, the 2011 is a terrific vintage for Kistler’s Les Noisetiers, a blend of Sonoma Coast vineyards. It manages to balance vibrancy and freshness with density and richness – a tough act to get right. And while there’s notable high quality oak influence, it’s melded into ripe orchard fruit and supported by crackling underlying acidity. A classy, elegant, and concentrated wine all around.
Gallo Family 2009 Laguna Vineyard Chardonnay Russian River Valley ($19.95), on the other hand, is for fans of the more classic Californian style of super ripe, heavily toasty-oaky chardonnay. This shows masses of honeyed caramel and barley sugar on the palate, with creamy texture very good to excellent length and concentration. At $20, it has to be said that this is a terrific buy in the style category.
The southern hemisphere also contributes three excellent reds to this weeks smart buys list:
2011 Achaval Ferrer Malbec ($24.95) is a pure, classy, refined, blue fruit-inflected version of malbec from Mendoza, with well above average class, finesse and elegance. Tannins are tamed and refined, acids are juicy and balanced, and there’s a saltiness on the palate that engenders saliva and encourages additional sips.
2010 Nugan Estate Mclaren Parish Vineyard Shiraz, McLaren Vale ($24.95) is an intense, eucalyptus-inflected, jammy blue and black fruit-flavoured Aussie Shiraz, with no holds barred. This is thick enough to cut with a knife, with concentration that requires patience – leave this in the cellar for 3-5 years for all of these disparate elements to integrate.
2010 Thornbury Pinot Noir, Central Otago ($24.95) is a dense and dark, savoury, black cherry-scented example of New Zealand Pinot Noir, certainly more Côte de Nuits-like to make an overused analogy, with an intriguing mix of leafy black berry fruit, earth and spice lashed to a fullish, supple yet substantial frame, with good to very good length. It’s a smart buy for pinot lovers of all stripes and styles.
Champagne at TIFF
And finally, August 31st puts a mini-focus on champagnes to guide you on this essential TIFF party-going accessory. All of the red carpet, A-list specials are presented – Dom Pérignon, Cristal, Laurent-Perrier Rosé, and others. If your goal is to impress with luxury brand names, than look no further (and these wines are certainly excellent to be sure). But if your MO favors value and originality, seek out some of the less pricey and often more interesting bottles from small grower houses. One Ontario agent in particular, Groupe Soleil, has made a specialty of these specialty champagnes, currently representing fourteen different houses. You’ll find names like André Clouet, R&L Legras, Bereche & Fils, David Leclapart, Jacquesson & Fils, Guy Charlemagne, Agrapart, and Laherte, among other artisanal, non-household name producers in this well-researched and smartly curated portfolio.
Other agents trading in quality grower champagne include Le Sommelier (Gatinois), Rogers & Co. (Vilmart, Chiquet), Trialto (Pierre Gimonnet), The Living Vine (Fleury), Barrel Select (Veuve Fourny), Le Caviste (Louise Brisson), and The Case for Wine (Château de Bligny). I have tasted from all of these houses and can recommend with confidence. Bring one of theses and you could become known in the “in” crowd as the discoverer of the next greatest (champagne) star. Check availability and pricing directly with the agents.
That’s all for this week. See you over the next bottle.
John Szabo, Master Sommelier
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From the Aug 31, 2013 Vintages release:
Jacques Lardière Photo Credit: Andrew Sainsbury, Lifford Wine & Spirits